Peter Phillips on lockdown in Gloucestershire and the new Gatcombe Park Food Festival

Peter Phillips hopes his new food and drink festival will put a smile on people’s faces, and teach them about provenance at the same time.

Gatcombe Park Food and Drink Festival is taking place from July 30-August 1, and will showcase the best produce from across the region.

Festival organisers have teamed up with the Lucky Onion Group, owners of The Crown at Minchinhampton who will have a big presence on the site.

Other drinks producers that will be present include Stroud Brewery, Severn Cider and Woodchester Valley Vineyard.

The festival will also feature artisan food producers, 60 craft traders, kids activity zones and live music. The Glorious Edit will also be hosting a pop up fair in the shopping village with a group of small retailers.

“It’s a tough time at the moment and trying to encourage people to come back out and enjoy what this part of the world has to offer is hugely important,” said Peter Phillips, the event’s director.

“I love my food, I love my drink. This is just a way of supporting a section of the industry which had been hit really really hard.

“The idea was to try and get people out and about and get a smile back on people’s faces.”

While Covid rules are set to be lifted tomorrow, the event has been planned so that it could go ahead with the current level of restrictions.

“We are still going to be very hygiene-focused. There are still going to be hand wash facilities around the site.

“We want people to feel as comfortable as possible and people have become very used to all the hygiene that is available in public places.

“There still needs to be a degree of caution because I think if people throw off the shackles completely you will put off as many people as you will excite people. There is clearly an increased concern about hygiene and health which is absolutely natural after a pandemic.

“What I would say is if you want to go to these events and you are concerned then there are precautions you can take and still go. There is nothing wrong with continuing to wear masks there’s nothing wrong with continuing to keep you hands clean, there’s nothing wrong with continuing a degree of social distancing.

“Hopefully we will get into a culture whereby, very much like in Asia, where you see a lot of people wearing masks. If you’re sick you wear a mask rather than if you are worried about catching something. There’s a much more polite culture about people wearing masks. People don’t see it as a bad thing.

“We shouldn’t get to a situation where people are verbally abusing someone with a mask that’s just ridiculous.

“What the events and hospitality industry need to do is provide the comfort for everybody to come back out.”

Mr Phillips said he has always wanted to hold a food and drink festival at Gatcombe and hopes the event will eventually be held in addition to the Festival of British Eventing, which had to be cancelled for a second year.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: The Festival of British Eventing is set to return in 2022The Festival of British Eventing is set to return in 2022

“I’m hoping this is going to be a success and people will enjoy it and will want to come back, he said.

“This isn’t a massive money making opportunity this is a platform to share a passion.

“Hopefully we can be supporting more and more local producers as the event hopefully grows year on year.

“It’s definitely not a replacement. The Festival of British Eventing is a staple in the national calendar of eventing.

“My parents invested heavily in their time, wanting to give something back into the sport, and I want to continue that.

“That’s what the festival is, it’s about both my parents putting something back into the sport that they got so much out of. Gatcombe is hugely important both from a sporting perspective but also a family perspective as well.”

Mr Phillips, a self-confessed foodie, hopes the festival can play a role in educating people about where their food comes from.

“I love food from everywhere,” he said.

“We lived in Asia for two-and-a-half years and absolutely loved it. The food around Asia is just incredible.

“But then you come back and you find more and more fantastic food around the UK.

“The UK’s food scene has got so much better over the last 20 years. Now with such a focus on local provenance and people being more concerned about where food has come from.

“Seasonality is the massive thing that everybody has to understand and it’s something the supermarkets have obliterated. There is no seasonality as far as the supermarkets are concerned.

“British produce is fantastic and we should celebrate it and eat more of it when it’s in season. If it’s not in season then you have to understand where it’s come from and what the impact is.

“It’s that educational process about how we get that message across. It needs to be driven by the industry but it also needs to be driven by events like this which help showcase local produce.

“People need to listen to the guys producing this food and understand the cycle it goes through and the time and the effort to make it appear on our shelves.

“There is a role in the industry to be able to shine a spotlight on provenance. That needs to be done more and more mainstream.

“If you go into a Wetherspoons or a Young’s pub or a Fuller’s pub or an Arkell’s pub or something along those sorts of lines. When they are serving the food there has to be a story behind the food.

“Where’s the meat come from? What’s the story of the chips? You spend god knows how long reading a menu, well tell a story as part of that process. Get those chains proud of the food they are producing and highlighting the producers as much as possible.

“It’s not going to happen overnight but there is already a movement about people being conscious about the provenance of their food. Let’s keep pushing the fact that on this small island we are able to produce such great quality food.

“I’m not saying this is a one size fits all. I understand there will always be a place for food that is sold at a particular level and I’m not saying that is a bad thing. But people have to understand if you are buying a chicken for £3.50 in Tesco they have to understand what the provenance of that chicken is, understand what that chicken went through during its life to get to the stand at £3.50.

“I absolutely agree that food needs to be priced at different levels but there has to be an education around why food is cheaper.”

Looking ahead to the future and the end of Covid Restrictions Mr Phillips said: “It’s obviously great news because the hospitality and events world have been hit so hard. The quicker we can open up and provide people the confidence to go back to pubs and restaurants and mass-attended events the better.

“For the events industry it’s been very difficult because you tend to employ a lot of temporary staff.

“A lot of the staff are students and there aren’t any students. Certainly not foreign students. That leads to a massive shortage of temporary labour and it’s already been seen in the hospitality industry.

“The industry is massively short of chefs, it’s massively short of waiters and waitresses. It’s a serious problem and until we get face to a fully opened up society again it’s going to remain a problem.

“The furlough scheme has been fantastic but I think the fact of the matter is there now almost needs to be an incentive to get off the furlough scheme and go back to work because the hospitality and events industry desperately need people to get back to work.

“Same as the agricultural industry, the picking industry, the fruit and veg industry. Part time labour is a real struggle to come by.

“People say it’s not going to affect me. It will affect you when you can’t get what you want from the supermarket. That’s what I believe the government’s next step has to be. To encourage people to come off furlough and get back in to the service industries because the service industry desperately needs the staff.”

And reflecting on the last year he said: “My first trip back to the pub was at The Crown in Minch and the first real ale poured…I never thought beer could taste so good. It was just fantastic. Didn’t last very long.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Peter Phillips enjoyed a trip to The Crown in MinchinhamptonPeter Phillips enjoyed a trip to The Crown in Minchinhampton

“It’s just nice to see places open, it’s going to be even nicer to see places open and busy.

“It’s been a lot easier for me than many people. We are fortunate we live on a farm and crops don’t stop growing, animals need to be looked after. There’s always been something to keep us distracted.

“But it’s required a massive shift in mindset and from that perspective it’s been a challenge but there is no way that I will ever complain about lockdown because we live in a beautiful part of the world, we live on a farm and have the freedom and space to move around as we want to.

“It’s been hugely frustrating from an events planning perspective but it can’t be half as frustrating than for the majority of the hospitality industry. The whole supply chain is affected when you shut pubs at a week’s notice.

“It’s hugely frustrating the whole in and out of lockdown but we’ve been exceedingly lucky from a personal perspective.”

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